Tuesday, December 23, 2008

HRfocus, January 2009

Copyright 2009 Institute of Management & Administration
All Rights Reserved

January 2009


HEADLINE: TRAINING: How to Help Line Supervisors Improve Profits & Productivity

Main Article

Times are tough, and most organizations are trying to maximize existing resources. Looking within for existing talent and strengths is becoming standard operating procedure. Fortunately, most organizations have a management resource ready and waiting to be developed.

A little training and preparation can make your first-level supervisors major players in contributing to the organization's profits and compliance efforts.


While organizations are always glad to move employees into management, too often this step is taken without the right preparation. This can be a costly mistake because unprepared managers can lead to poor performance, reduced productivity, and missteps that can lead to legal claims and lawsuits. These are never desirable outcomes, of course, but they are even more dangerous during this time of economic and business uncertainty.

''Employers need to be systematic in investing in training and support if they want managers to manage the performance of their employees effectively,'' said Gene Boccialetti, director of management development and HR management at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations in New York.


''There are plenty of resources out there to help employers help their line managers get a sense of how things can work better right there on the shop floor,'' said Rhonda K. Reger, associate professor of management and organization at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, Md.

''The best companies of whatever size will begin by first making sure they have selected the right person for that frontline job.'' This means being certain to interview the prospective manager in depth and closely check his or her experience and credentials, whether the candidate is a recent business school graduate, a transfer from within the company, a promotion from within the department, or a new hire from outside, Reger said.

Desirable traits include intelligence, adaptability or willingness to learn, and familiarity with the job at hand, Reger continued. "Most of all, remember why you want that person there managing on the front line,'' she said. "Isn't it about increasing productivity--and profit--through wisely managing your front-line workers?''

The best environment for front-line managers to acquire skills necessary to succeed is found where the chief operating officer is behind them, Reger said. In a small company, that might mean the boss or owner having coffee with the new manager regularly outside the work cycle, a time to share ''war stories'' on how to get things done within the culture of the enterprise and simply getting to know each other.

"This is important,'' Reger said, ''because time and again we find that most CEOs were, once upon a time, front-line managers themselves. And they rose to the top because they were 'change agents,' starting as front-line managers, where they raised standards and continued to do so wherever they served in the company.''

Medium and larger companies, whose CEOs' time is spoken for in countless ways, also profit if the CEO pushes for front-line manager support, Reger said, whether it's a hands-on relationship with the new managers or just standing be-hind the HR department as they do their part in training and supporting front-line managers.

In such an environment, front-line managers have the opportunity to be mentored by more seasoned managers and are encouraged to participate in professional associations relevant to their work--perhaps serving on an organization, community group, or a local governmental advisory board--places where the front-line manager will be exposed to new organizational cultures and practices, Reger said.

''When the top leadership of a company is engaged, front-line managers 'get it,''' she said. They have the sense that they are responsible for self-developing their skills both inside and outside the company.

"It's all about skill acquisition,'' said Reger. And whether it comes from employer-financed classroom study, a hired outside consultant coming to the workplace, mentors from within, or a rotation of executives from outside to collaborate with the front-line manager, there are many options, and they don't have to cost a fortune, she said.

''Concentrate on the basics,'' suggested C. Thomas Willett, director of Cornell's management program in New York City. ''Front-line managers need skills in working with people. It's as simple, as basic as that.''

Training may include boosting employee performance, the challenges of managing a diverse workforce, coaching techniques to push employee performance levels, how to create a culture of service excellence, time management, and problem solving and decision making.

Other topics: enhancing managers' people skills, effective meeting management, leadership for women front-line managers, better interviewing skills for managers, effective on-the-job writing, learning how to listen to employees, navigating difficult conversations, conflict resolution, negotiating effectively, managing distant workers, and legal is-sues for front-line managers.

''Don't trust 'received' information from job descriptions alone or out-of-date work rules for the department,'' Willett emphasized.

Effective front-line managers have to ''start building value'' right away by independently analyzing the work being done in the department and establishing what the job criteria are, no matter what job descriptions say; the effectiveness of the individual workers doing the work; the true costs for product, salaries, and support in the department; how the work is connected with the work in other departments; and where all this leads in terms of production and profit. Once the front-line manager gets a grip on these metrics, a whole new way of managing becomes possible, Willett said.

The front-line manager will be able to communicate effectively up the leadership chain on the ''reality'' of his or her department and, if necessary, overcome misperceptions held by senior managers, Willett said. At the same time, the front-line manager will be able to understand the work of each staff member and be able to talk to each of them about their contribution to what the particular department produces or does.

''That's a powerful tool,'' Willett said. With it, front-line managers can begin to ''put it all together'' to do what they've been hired to do--raise the performance of everyone in the department.

At Cornell, the emphasis is on the need for front-line managers to become engaged closely with their workers even in these times of increasingly different work values finding their way into organizations, leaner staffing, and greater diversity and complexity ratcheting up tensions between management and workers.

''I tell managers that their workers need ready access to performance indicators,'' Boccialetti said. ''Most people want to do their jobs well, but many workers never hear how well (or how poorly) they're doing from their immediate supervisors, and their talent or interest in initiative may be frustrated by management's 'silence.'" He said the new manager ought to be able to ''talk straight'' with these workers on how to improve or maintain their individual performances.


''A whole lot of good management is common sense,'' said Daniel P. O'Meara, a partner with Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhodes and vice chair of the Philadelphia law firm's labor and employment department. ''If you hire the wrong person, someone without common sense and judgment, you can train them or hire consultants or what-ever, and it only makes them a little less dangerous to the employer.''

This can be especially important when it comes to making sure legal requirements are followed, he explained.

Good management on the shop floor sometimes is about building the ''preventive worker'' or establishing a workplace where--through constant reminders, repeated conversations with supervisors, and good ''listening'' for feed-back from the workers--managers create a setting where employees understand the legal requirements the employer must uphold and that ''you, their supervisor, absolutely cannot and will not tolerate certain actions at work.''

It's up to the employer or its HR department to make certain that supervisors are fully engaged on this aspect of managing employees, O'Meara said.

"Most new supervisors want to do the right thing, but they frequently don't know what the right thing is unless the company explicitly informs them.''

What seems to work best, O'Meara said, is both good support for frontline managers from the HR department and an ''open door'' by superiors willing to listen and talk front-line managers through the issues that arise.


''HR departments can be significantly helpful for managers even if they don't know what they're looking for,'' said Willett.

A relationship with HR that the line supervisor sees as an alliance, rather than an obstacle to problem solving, should start with the assumption of management responsibilities, in Willett's view.

''HR leadership itself has to 'drill' into the culture of its front-line managers" to build the relationship and make sure the managers see HR as a partner.

Reger agreed. ''The message to managers has to be 'I'm here to support you, I know how to deal with what's happening on your floor, and I have strategies to help you be the best manager you can be.' ''

LOAD-DATE: December 15, 2008

Buffalo News (New York), December 22, 2008, Monday

Copyright 2008 The Buffalo News
All Rights Reserved
Buffalo News (New York)

December 22, 2008, Monday


HEADLINE: The long goodbye; ArcelorMittal's demise echoes the past while documenting the cost of recession

In these days, when giant companies routinely announce job cuts by the thousands, the 260 jobs being lost when the ArcelorMittal plant in Lackawanna closes in April might not register on the economic misery scale.

But it resonates in these parts, where mighty Bethlehem Steel once employed more than 20,000 people and helped build the area's middle class. And it serves as an example of manufacturing in the modern world, where interconnec-tedness opens formerly local industries to the vagaries of the global marketplace.

The ArcelorMittal Lackawanna plant won a "Champions at Work" award from the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations for its labor/management cooperation. Still, the Lackawanna plant succumbed to the same macroeconomics affecting the manufacturing and other industries. It is, as William Pienta, the United Steelworkers of America district director said, ". . . a direct result of the financial crisis we're in," involving the automotive industry which, in this case, was the lifeblood of the plant.

On a nostalgic note, the plant closing also marks the end to the last line that could be directly drawn to Bethlehem Steel's former operations. (The steel bar mill still operating was closed by Bethlehem Steel before being bought, breaking its direct lineage.)

Union members had just concluded collective bargaining for a master agreement with ArcelorMittal, but today's steel industry has changed, dramatically. The industry has gone from operating mills at full capacity to about 65 percent. There are 29 blast furnaces left in the United States, with all but nine expected to close.

Steelworkers have long complained about the nation's economic policies that depended upon credit and became unsustainable. And, as Pienta said, it is increasingly difficult to run an economy without making anything.

Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Buffalo, points out that steel workers don't just represent people who make steel but almost all the other parts of a car: rubber, glass, steel and a large amount of chemicals. It is impossible to ignore the ramifications of one individual product, steel, being hurt in an economic downturn and outsourcing.

The consequences of moving manufacturing overseas to cheaper labor radiate far beyond the manufacturing jobs, themselves, sending tremors through the suppliers, engineers and designers, accountants and finance types. It isn't just the blue-collar worker on the line, but a large number of people in a variety of jobs.

The Lackawanna plant is a small example of a larger picture. And in ArcelorMittal's case, it had shut down so much of the other products that the company was getting raw material from Cleveland and sending it here and putting on the galvanized coating and sending it back to Cleveland.

The workers tried hard to help themselves and others, putting money from their own paychecks into supporting Bethlehem retirees. Now, they're going to need the money to help save themselves.

LOAD-DATE: December 22, 2008

The Fayette Observer, December 21, 2008, Sunday

Copyright 2008 The Fayette Observer
The Fayette Observer (Fayetteville, North Carolina)

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News

December 21, 2008, Sunday

HEADLINE: Smithfield: Race and the union

BYLINE: John Ramsey and Sarah A. Reid, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

Dec. 21--TAR HEEL -- For two years, Harold Simmons watched the changing faces from his job as crew chief on the kill floor.
As much as Simmons hated to acknowledge it, he knew what those new faces meant: The union would finally gain a foothold at the world's largest slaughterhouse -- Smithfield Packing Co.
In just two years, the racial makeup of Smithfield workers has gone from mostly Hispanic to mostly black.
The change started in 2006, when Smithfield notified more than 500 workers that their names and Social Security numbers didn't match. Months later, federal immigration officials raided the plant, arresting 21 Hispanic workers with the intent of deporting them.
Analysts say the raid, coupled with others in the area, created fear among Hispanic workers and led to an exodus -- at the plant and throughout the community.
In 2006, more than half of Smithfield's 5,000 workers were Hispanic. Today, Hispanics make up just 26 percent of the work force, a decline of about 1,000 workers.
Most of the workers who took their place were black people, many of whom were eager to join a union on the promise of improved working conditions and better pay.
On Dec. 11, workers approved the union by a vote of 2,041-1,879.
Although there is no way of knowing the racial breakdown of the vote, analysts and workers such as Simmons say the new black majority proved to be the difference.
Tasha Wallace cuts ribs off hogs' backbones eight hours a day at Smithfield. Wallace, who is black and supports the union, said she, too, saw the victory coming.
Hispanics, especially Mexicans, were scared to vote for organized labor, she said.
Miguel Esquilin, a Puerto Rican, works on the kill floor. His job is to put a hog head on a spike and send it down the line, an act he repeats more than 8,000 times a day. Esquilin said he spent countless hours trying to persuade Mexicans with questionable legal status that a vote for the union wouldn't provoke retaliation from Smithfield.
He said word got out that the National Labor Relations Board, which monitored the election, may ask workers to confirm their identity.
Hispanics' fear boiled down to one simple thing, Esquilin said: "If I don't follow Smithfield, I'll lose my work."

Richard Hurd, a labor relations expert at Cornell University, said those observations don't surprise him. Hurd said Hispanics and blacks typically favor unions at about the same rate, unless the Hispanics are illegal workers.

"Latinos with questionable status tend to be afraid of union status because they're afraid to bring attention to the issue," Hurd said. "If the change was from people in marginal situations to African-Americans, then just that change itself might make a difference."

Hurd said he sees the demographic changes at Smithfield as one of three major factors that pushed the union over the top. The other two are the agreement for a third party to hold an election in a neutral environment, and the recent election of Barack Obama, who supports unions.

Those, combined with the union's aggressive campaigning for years, likely made the difference, Hurd said.

When Smithfield opened its Tar Heel plant in 1992, most employees were black. But that changed as an influx of Hispanics flocked to the area in search of work.
By 2006, about 2,300 of the plant's 5,000 employees were Hispanic. That's the year Smithfield sent out hundreds of "no-match" letters to more than 500 employees, notifying them that the names and Social Security numbers they had given the company didn't match the Social Security Administration's records. Those employees could either prove their identity or be fired, the company told its workers.
Smithfield defended its actions, saying the federal government had threatened to fine companies that employed il-legal workers.
Union organizers accused Smithfield of calling immigration officials to intimidate union supporters.
A judge for the National Labor Relations Board had already found in 2001 that company officials sought to scare Hispanic workers by telling them that the union would report workers to immigration services.
Then, on Jan. 24, 2007, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 21 Hispanic workers at the plant.
Dennis Pittman, Smithfield's spokesman, said the region saw an exodus of Hispanics after raids at Smithfield, Bald Head Island and Fort Bragg.
Mauricio Castro, an organizer with the North Carolina Latino coalition, said Hispanics in the area felt intimidated, so they left.
"I heard a couple of cases of people who had pretty much decided their dignity had been violated and they did not feel they needed to stay in a place that was hostile to them," Castro said. "I heard they would rather be in a place eating just rice and beans than be humiliated and looked down the way they have been."
Most moved to another part of the state to find work. Some went back home, Castro said.
The union took notice of the changing face of Smithfield and reorganized accordingly.
Staffing levels in its Lumberton office, once mostly Spanish speaking, turned largely to black people.
The union directed all questions to Jill Cashen, a spokeswoman in Washington.
Cashen said the union's goal is to be able to communicate best with the work force.
"I feel like the analysis of the racial dynamic is odd," she said.
If Smithfield hired 1,000 French speakers, the union would bring in organizers fluent in French, she said.
Cashen said organizing at Smithfield was a coveted job among union workers aiming to end years of abuses at the meat-packing plant.
Some organizers left their posts on election night and went to Lumberton in time to see Obama's acceptance speech. By 4 a.m. the next day, they were handling workers at the plant, she said. Between 50 and 70 union organizers rotated through Lumberton in the past two months, Cashen said, up from a normal staff of about 10.
"Because we've been working toward this day of having a fair election at Smithfield for so long, there was no greater assignment that someone could have," she said.
The union had access to a list of employee addresses and phone numbers that Smithfield was required to provide. It used that data to call people repeatedly and to make home visits.
"You have got to visit people at home. There is no other way to talk to them." Cashen said. "This is how unions or-ganize."
J. Justin Wilson, managing director of the union watchdog group Unionfacts.com, said unions are extremely precise in their targeting.
"If you are a Spanish speaker, you will probably have a Spanish speaker come to your door. If you are an Afri-can-American, you will almost always have an African-American talking to you," he said. "It's typically two or three. If you are a female, it is two or three ladies. If you are a male, it is two or three men."
Taylor Haats, 21, packs loins weighing 40 pounds and heavier into boxes. On Tuesday, he sat in the back of a van eating hot wings while talking with two buddies from work. All three said the union visited their homes with people who look like them.
One of Haats' friends said the union even called his grandmother's house trying to get in touch with him.
Simmons, the crew leader who voted against the union, said many people didn't like the calls and visits. Simmons lives in Dillon, S.C. He said he twice had home visits, and phone calls often woke him up.
The Elizabethtown-White Lake Chamber of Commerce ran anti-union ads leading up to the election. Rich Glenn, chamber president, said the campaign used private donations and no corporate funding. Glenn said it seemed like the union was given all the leeway it wanted, while Smithfield had its hands tied. And the chamber could only do so much to help.
"Obviously, we were outspent, out-manned." Glenn said. "This wasn't their first rodeo, so to speak."
As part of the agreement to hold the union vote, Smithfield was given time to meet with employees during the workday to explain why they might want to oppose the union.
Haats said the company's meeting was highly controlled. Answers to any questions were read from papers with answers pre-approved by management. Employees weren't allowed to ask their supervisors about the union during work, he said. Haats and others said the plant's Hispanic workers were taken to another area during the meetings.
Wallace said a lot of people went into the meetings favoring the union and came out with their minds changed.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union has been trying to organize the plant almost since the doors opened.
The 16-year struggle has been marked by aggressive tactics on both sides.
Rachel Billey remembers.
Billey has worked almost 17 years at the plant. She's worked on the cut floor and the kill floor. Now she is in the label cage, putting labels on packages of pork. When Billey started, she said, it took all day to kill 500 hogs. Now, the plant kills more than 32,000 a day. She remembers the failed union attempts in 1994 and 1997, ones that a judge threw out.
This election, even though it was close, lacked the tension of the two from the '90s, Billey said.
A fight broke out in 1997 after the ballots were counted.
Billey said the company kept her support because she didn't like the union's tactics, especially when it called for a boycott.
"Why would you try to sabotage the company like that when all you're trying to do is get in there?" she said.
After the holidays, workers will charter the new local union. No date has been set for election of officers
No one is exactly sure what the union will bring.
Workers are hoping for better benefits and higher pay, but they are scared.
Billey and Wallace, workers on opposite sides of the union vote, said people in the plant are worrying about the company closing its doors or laying people off.
Smithfield is losing money because of the exorbitant cost of corn and soybean meal. It posted a $13 million drop in earnings in the second quarter of this year. Its stock prices are down more than 70 percent.
And Smithfield has in the past moved jobs from unionized plants to non-union ones.
Pittman, the company spokesman, said he doesn't know of any immediate plans for layoffs or job relocations. But Smithfield, like the rest of the economy, isn't having an easy time right now, he said.
Wallace said workers are waiting with fingers crossed to see what will happen.
"I know we need a union, so I voted yes," Wallace said. "But a lot of people are scared because they say there's threats to be a layoff if the union came in. We're just hoping now that there is no layoff."
Staff writer Ed Panas contributed to this report.
Staff writer John Ramsey can be reached at ramseyj@fayobserver.com or 486-3574.
Staff writer Sarah A. Reid can be reached at reids@fayobserver.com or 323-4848, ext. 280.
To see more of The Fayetteville Observer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.fayettevillenc.com/. Copyright (c) 2008, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For re-prints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

LOAD-DATE: December 21, 2008

Buffalo News (New York), December 20, 2008, Saturday

Copyright 2008 The Buffalo News
All Rights Reserved
Buffalo News (New York)

December 20, 2008, Saturday

HEADLINE: Local workers, dealers breathe a sigh of relief


President Bush's announcement of government loans to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC will provide sta-bility to the auto industry in the Buffalo Niagara region, industry observers and stakeholders said Friday.

"We're encouraged that the president has stepped up to the plate and allowed an opportunity to keep the Big Three viable for this time period," said Kevin Donovan, assistant regional director of the United Auto Workers.

There were fears that if a rescue package did not come by year's end, at least one of the automakers might have collapsed, unleashing a ripple effect in the economy that would have hit the Buffalo Niagara region.

The region has strong ties to the auto industry. GM's engine plant in the Town of Tonawanda and Ford Motor Co.'s stamping plant in Hamburg combined have about 2,200 employees. The region is also home to many suppliers, includ-ing Delphi Corp. and American Axle & Manufacturing, as well as numerous auto dealers and a large population of au-to-industry retirees who depend on the automakers for benefits.

Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Buffalo, praised the rescue plan.

"I think President Bush actually made a very courageous, very correct decision," he said. "I think he did the right thing in a very difficult time."

The loans will benefit the industry locally, as well, Wheaton said. "I think it secures the future of the Ford stamping plant and the GM engine plant."

Ford did not request a government loan, saying it does not face a short-term liquidity issue, but it is seeking a line of credit of up to $9 billion in bridge financing as a backstop. And Ford was supportive of the loans to GM and Chrysler, saying a failure by one or both of those companies could have a destructive economic impact.

A fact sheet distributed by the White House about the loans includes items calling for making workers' wages and work rules "competitive" with those at U.S. auto factories run by foreign-owned carmakers by the end of 2009.

Patrick Heraty, a professor of business administration at Hilbert College, noted that those particular items were identified as "targets."

"On the one hand, those are not mandates, but I suspect Congress will want to see some progress made in those areas, as well," he said.

Heraty said the UAW has proven amenable in recent years to making changes related to wages and benefits. But the union has also taken the position that other parties, such as the management of the auto companies, need to make more sacrifices as well, he said.
Donovan, the UAW leader, said it was too soon to say what the loan plan will mean for the workers represented by the UAW.

"Obviously, right now that is something between the UAW and the companies that we have to negotiate," he said.

While the White House loan package provides immediate and temporary financial support, it also calls for GM and Chrysler to make substantial changes within just three months.

The White House says that if the firms have not presented a plan to become viable by March 31, the loan will be called and all funds returned to the U.S. Treasury.

Nallan Suresh, chairman and professor of operations management and strategy at the University at Buffalo's School of Management, said he believes the automakers can meet the deadline. He also thought it was a good idea that they were given such a tight timetable.

"They very well know what needs to be done," Suresh said.

He thinks the UAW will do its part to support the plan. "It's a matter of survival," he said. "If they don't make con-cessions, the industry will not last."

Management will also have to make sacrifices and changes in order for the plan to succeed, he said.

"I know the auto industry has not been very wise in its decisions in the past, but these are unusual times and this announcement [of the loans] was very needed," Suresh said.

During the debate over the loans, everyone from employees to plant managers to dealers and suppliers have em-phasized the loans' impact on the local economy, in the form of jobs, charitable contributions, tax payments and local purchases.

The loan plan also lessens some of the anxiety for area auto dealers affiliated with the U.S. automakers. Some of them feared that a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing would drive away customers worried about warranties and future ser-vice.

"We needed a little vote of confidence," said Paul Stasiak, president of the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association. "I think the dealers are a little relieved. This isn't a closure, but it's the next step in the journey."

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

LOAD-DATE: December 20, 2008

The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 19, 2008, Friday

Copyright 2008 The Chronicle of Higher Education
All Rights Reserved
The Chronicle of Higher Education

December 19, 2008, Friday

HEADLINE: What Would Warren Do?


Warren Buffett drew gasps of admiration this fall when, in the midst of a market meltdown, he swooped in to ac-quire sizable hunks of General Electric and the investment bank Goldman Sachs for a relative song.

Perhaps the country's well-endowed colleges need a Buffett moment of their own -- not to invest in the financial markets, but to invest in themselves.

That's not quite the way most colleges appear to be responding. With endowment values plummeting, scores of in-stitutions have announced budget cuts and hiring freezes. Most have cited declines in their endowments as one of the reasons.

Given all the economic uncertainty -- How long before the stock markets turn around? How will year-end donation totals stack up? How much extra student aid will colleges need to provide next year, or even next semester? -- those might be prudent moves (or, less charitably, evidence of panic or posturing).

But even well-intentioned prudence has its risks.

"The wealthiest institutions really should be spending a lot more," says Ronald G. Ehrenberg, director of the Higher Education Research Institute at Cornell University.

Many colleges may be poorer than they were a year ago, but they are hardly poor. If ever there was a period to tap those endowments, he says, this is it. And not only to ensure that existing programs aren't put in jeopardy.

A building renovation, if it's really necessary, probably won't be cheaper two or three years from now, and post-poning hires that would build up a key academic program doesn't make sense if the program really is key.

"This is a great time to be hiring faculty if you have the money," says Mr. Ehrenberg.

Or consider this thought: As America debates ways to beat back the recession with jobs programs and high-way-building plans, some education advocates are now arguing that the GI Bill was actually a more powerful tool for social mobility and economic recovery than programs like the WPA. Might that also translate into a case for new en-dowment spending on student aid, the kind of "soft" investment that could turn today's scholarship student into tomor-row's productive citizen (and grateful alum)?

Protecting the endowment at the expense of a new or continuing transformative program could be a mistake.

Don't misconstrue that as an argument for spending more simply to sustain the status quo. Colleges, Mr. Ehrenberg says, are facing a "day of reckoning" on the question of affordability.

But compared with the companies now reinventing themselves against the backdrop of bankruptcy, many colleges have a huge advantage -- the cushion their endowments give them as they re-engineer their futures.

Still, there's no shortage of irony in the way the discussion over endowment spending is evolving.

Just a year ago, politicians and pundits were hammering leaders of wealthy colleges for being too stingy with their endowment spending. In response, many colleges justified their approaches by noting that the conservative spending policies protected their endowments, and ultimately their institutions, from downturns in the investment markets.

But there are downturns, and there are downturns. Most experts say the spending formulas weren't designed for a year like this one.

"This is the 100-year flood," says William F. Massy, a former director of finance at Stanford University and now a consultant to colleges.

In other words, colleges that have endowments shouldn't be afraid to use them -- and to hit them up more deeply than some of them did last year in response to public pressure.

"You may have to raid the endowment for a year or two," says John S. Griswold, director of the Commonfund In-stitute. "Taking the shock to the endowment is better than taking it in the operating budget."

For the couple of hundred colleges that have the luxury of a hearty endowment, that option is a short-term solution to an immediate problem -- and, according to many experts, an appropriate one.

But if they spend more and don't also seize the opportunity to figure out how to spend smarter, will they waste their Warren Buffett moment?

LOAD-DATE: December 17, 2008

Business Week, December 17, 2008, Wednesday

Copyright 2008 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

Business Week

December 17, 2008, Wednesday

HEADLINE: Where to Find Top Talent; Small companies don't have much luck with traditional recruiting. Instead, they count on referrals and trusted networks to find good people

BYLINE: John Tozzi

Where can small businesses find good employees? Despite the recent flood of corporate layoffs, entrepreneurs of-ten gripe that the best candidates don't even know their firm exists, and finding them can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Traditional recruiting methods usually fail small companies. Broadcasting openings on job boards sometimes yields a flood of applicants who don't qualify, and the number of responses can overwhelm small firms, says Dennis J. Ceru, a Babson College professor of entrepreneurship and a consultant to small and midsize companies. Paid recruiters can find good candidates, but at a high cost -- typical fees are 20% or more of the position's yearly salary. Ceru says the price may be worth it to fill a top position such as a chief financial officer but not for ordinary hires.

Instead, most small companies prefer to find candidates through referrals and networks of people they trust. To do this effectively, entrepreneurs need to articulate what they want in job applicants, says networking expert Diane Darling. "People don't know what you need. They just can't read your mind," she says. She also suggests small business owners keep an open mind about who might refer good candidates. Sometimes unlikely social connections can refer good employees, although Darling cautions business owners always to check professional references, even when a trusted friend recommends someone.

Beyond reaching out to existing contacts, entrepreneurs can meet potential hires at networking events. Ceru says a casual meeting is a smart way to gauge whether the person is a good fit before starting the conventional application process. "Nothing beats eyeballing the candidate," he says. "Rather than have 500 resumes and 10 appointments, why not go to two networking nights and have a beer, get to know them in social environment?" To cast a wider net, compa-nies can look for job candidates at conferences and trade shows as well.

"A Better Pool"

Small businesses should enlist their current employees as recruiters, essentially selling friends and contacts on the benefits of working at their company, says Chris Collins, associate professor of human resource management at Cornell University's school of Industrial & Labor Relations. "Take the price of that ad you were going to run and give it to the person who identifies the candidate who eventually gets hired," he says. "You'll probably get a better pool."

One startup betting that companies will benefit from turning employees into recruiters is Jobvite. The two-year-old San Francisco company offers Web-based software that allows hiring managers to give information about job openings to employees, who in turn can push it out to potential candidates in their professional and social networks. Hiring through employee referrals is more effective and less expensive than placing ads or using recruiters, according to Jobvite CEO Dan Finnigan, a former executive with Yahoo! (YHOO) HotJobs. "Everyone now has a Rolodex, and it's all online and they're all interconnected," he says. Companies pay for the service based on the number of employees they have, with the price starting at about $500 a month for small firms. Even without paying for software, small businesses and their employees can use online networks to expand the reach of their hiring. LinkedIn reports that 45% of jobs posted on the network in the U.S. come from small and midsize companies, with an average of 22 responses per posting in November, up from 12 in January. [Disclosure: LinkedIn has a partnership with BusinessWeek.com that includes a tool that lets users find LinkedIn connections at companies mentioned in BusinessWeek articles.]

Small businesses can also find good candidates through universities. Owners and managers can show up at career fairs, ask campus career centers to refer candidates, and post to job boards and lists that go out to students, recent gra-duates, and alumni. Companies need to raise their profile on local campuses to get students' attention, says Lindsey Pollak, an author and career expert who works with students and young professionals. "The students would love to work for you, they just don't where to find you," she says. Firms can get involved on campuses even before they need to hire by working with classes on consulting projects and hiring interns, says Erik Medina, director of graduate career services at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. "You'd be surprised, a little bit of good marketing, a little bit of good outreach can go a long way to distinguish yourself from the very large well-known firms that most students focus on," he says. This year in particular is a good time to recruit on campuses, Pollak says, because many large firms won't be hiring.

Wherever entrepreneurs look for new employees, they shouldn't wait until they have to fill an opening. By con-stantly networking with an eye open for potential hires, owners and managers can keep a pool of candidates in mind for when they do want to bring someone on board. Continually identifying good candidates is particularly important for small companies because the time and money they invest in filling each position compounds the cost of a mistake. Says Pollak: "It is so much more dangerous for them to make a bad hire because 1 out of 50 employees is so much more damaging than 1 out of 50,000."

For more suggestions on where to find employees, online and off, flip through this slide show.
More elements of this special report are available in the related items box on the upper right side of this page.

URL: http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/dec2008/sb20081211_402088.htm

LOAD-DATE: December 17, 2008

Asbury Park Press, December 17, 2008, Wednesday

Asbury Park Press

December 17, 2008, Wednesday

Asbury Park Press

Conservative assault on auto workers just a warm-up


I must admit that when the danger of a global financial implosion became apparent in March with the taxpayer-backed takeover of Bear Stearns by banking giant JP Morgan Chase, I did not understand how all those worthless Wall Street credit swaps really could be the fault of an overpaid union welder at an auto plant somewhere in Michigan.

Heck. Despite having once listened as Republican leader Tom DeLay gave a House speech blaming the 1999 Columbine High School shootings on mothers who use birth control and the teaching of evolution in schools, I still underestimate the peculiar genius conservative Republicans show in exploiting dire, even tragic, situations to wield a partisan cudgel.

Senate Republicans' effort to break the United Auto Workers union as the pound of flesh they wanted in exchange for loans to teetering automakers — companies that are on the brink because of a credit crisis they did not cause — was over the top, even drawing objections from the Bush White House. The administration is now rushing to find money for Detroit somewhere in the huge pot of financial-industry bailouts, lest the automakers go down and take what's left of the economy with them.

Understand that the conservative assault on the UAW is just a warm-up act.

The main event for these contemporary Pinkertons is coming after Barack Obama is sworn in as president, and Democrats seek to pass a measure that would make it easier for workers to organize unions. It is the Employee Free Choice Act, and its intent is to push back — at least a bit — on the multimillion-dollar union-busting business that has become institutionalized since the political assault on labor was juiced up with President Ronald Reagan's 1981 mass firing of air traffic controllers.

When Reagan supplanted the striking controllers with "replacement workers" (previously known as strikebreakers or scabs), business got the message: It was perfectly acceptable, if not advantageous, to bust unions or to keep them from being organized. From there, it was a small step toward the widespread use of unethical, and sometimes illegal, tactics.

"When it comes to workers' right to form unions, loophole-ridden laws, paralyzing delays and feeble enforcement have created a culture of impunity in many areas of U.S. labor law and practice," according to a 2005 report by Human Rights Watch. In the 1950s, a few hundred workers each year suffered reprisals for union organizing. By the early part of this decade, according to the report, about 20,000 workers a year suffered a reprisal serious enough for the National Labor Relations Board to order back pay or take other steps.

Academic research has demonstrated that much of the illicit anti-union activity is conducted after employees have signed cards indicating they want a union, but before a formal election is held. This is what the "free choice act" aims to eliminate: a waiting period during which three-quarters of companies hire consultants to thwart the organizing drive and engage in a variety of pressure tactics to keep employees from ultimately voting "yes." About half of companies threaten to close the plant if the union wins the election, according to research by Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University.

No wonder then that in a memo from which the author's name was removed — but which is believed to have been circulated among Republicans last week during the auto industry imbroglio — lawmakers were told that "This is the Democrats' first opportunity to pay off organized labor after the election. This is a precursor to card check and other items . . . Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor, instead of taking their first blow from it."

But the blows of this economy have been harshest on average workers. Before the current recession began, paychecks still had not recovered from the 2001 recession. Wages and benefits have been eroding. One way to staunch the trend is to tip the scale — now tilted so heavily in favor of Wall Street and wealth — back the other way. Otherwise, when the economy recovers, the fruits will again trickle up to the executive suite.

"If workers are going to benefit from this recovery, they are going to have to have the ability to bargain for higher wages and higher benefits. We can't depend on employers on their own to deliver the benefits of this recovery to workers," says Bill Samuel, legislative director of the AFL-CIO. "We have to change the equation here."

That is the kind of change conservatives just don't believe in.

Marie Cocco is a nationally syndicated columnist.

TMCnet, December 15, 2008, Monday


December 15, 2008, Monday


Waterloo-born labor expert predicts Big 3 bailout

(Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (IA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 15--WATERLOO -- Domestic automakers will be bailed out, but the shot clock's running, a Waterloo-born labor relations expert says.

"There's no question they're going to get it done. It's a question of whether they can do it fast enough to avoid General Motors' bankruptcy filing," said Ron Seeber of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

There also is the question of what concessions will be sought from the United Auto Workers and how much they're willing or able to give, Seeber said.

"If they're asking the UAW to concede $2 or $3 an hour in direct wage costs, I think they, the UAW, might go along with that," Seeber said.

"If they're asking to reduce total wage costs" including pension and benefit contributions "by $20 an hour, they (lawmakers and company officials) are going to find (UAW leaders) can't do that," and would have to take that issue back to the membership. "They're a democratic union."

A major portion of those total wage costs includes what current employees of older domestic automakers are paying toward retirees' health insurance, as opposed to their import competitors, which are comparatively younger firms.

Seeber said University of Michigan studies indicate total costs for a UAW-Detroit automaker employee are about $74 an hour when benefits and health insurance are included, "plus the share they pay of all the retirees' health insurance."

In comparison, he said, costs for an employee of an import automaker are about $52 an hour. "They don't have all those retirees yet," Seeber said. "They don't have the 'legacy burden' of very few workers supporting those who are no longer working."

Seeber, a former John Deere Waterloo worker and UAW Local 838 member here, is a professor and associate dean of Cornell's Institute for Industrial Relations and the university's vice provost for land grant affairs. He is the son of Jack Seeber, a former Waterloo City Council member who served as president of UAW Local 838 in Waterloo from 1971-75 and was a leader in the local and its retirees group for more than 40 years until his death in 1995. Local 838 is the largest UAW local within Deere and in Iowa, with more than 2,700 members.

Deere and the UAW will be negotiating a new contract next year. Seeber said the Deere-UAW situation is far different than it is with domestic automakers.

"In some ways, they're kind of insulated in the ag economy from what's going on in the rest of the economy," Seeber said.

While Deere experienced layoffs at its construction-equipment manufacturing operations in Dubuque and cut back in other sectors, the company recently enjoyed its fifth consecutive year of record profits and its first $2 billion profit year for the fiscal year ending Oct. 31. That's largely on the strength of its ag equipment operations, including sales of its large row-crop tractors designed and manufactured in Waterloo.

While Seeber agreed UAW negotiators may cite that performance in seeking enhancements to workers' pay and benefit package, he suggested Deere may take a more austere stance, citing overall economic conditions. Despite setting an earnings record for the recently complete fiscal year, fourth-quarter earnings were down from a year ago and the company is predicting flat sales for the coming year. The current Deere-UAW pact was for six years and a number of workers and local leadership have retired and been replaced by younger employees.

Contact Pat Kinney at (319) 291-1426 or pat.kinney@wcfcourier.com.

To see more of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.wcfcourier.com/.

Copyright (c) 2008, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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The New York Times, December 13, 2008, Saturday

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
The New York Times

December 13, 2008, Saturday
Late Edition - Final

HEADLINE: Workers at Pork Plant in North Carolina Vote to Unionize After a 15-Year Fight


After an expensive and emotional 15-year organizing battle, workers at the world's largest hog-killing plant, the Smithfield Packing slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, N.C., have voted to unionize.

The United Food and Commercial Workers, which had lost unionization elections at the 5,000-worker plant in 1994 and 1997, announced late Thursday that it had finally won. The victory was significant in a region known for hostility toward organized labor.

The vote was one of the biggest private-sector union successes in years, and officials from the United Food and Commercial Workers said it was the largest in that union's history.

The union won by 2,041 votes to 1,879 after two years of turmoil at the plant. As a result of a federal crackdown on illegal immigrants, more than 1,500 Hispanic workers have left the plant. Its work force is now 60 percent black, up from around 20 percent two years ago.

After the results were announced, Wanda Blue, a hog counter, was among the many workers who were celebrat-ing.

''It feels great,'' said Ms. Blue, who makes $11.90 an hour and has worked at Smithfield for five years. ''It's like how Obama felt when he won. We made history.''

''I favored the union because of respect,'' said Ms. Blue, who is black. ''We deserve more respect than we're get-ting. When we were hurt or sick, we weren't getting treated like we should.''

''The union didn't win by a big margin, but it's an important positive sign for labor,'' said Richard Hurd, a professor of labor relations at Cornell University. ''They may be able to use it as leverage to organize other meatpacking plants in the South. The victory may be tied to the political environment. The election of Barack Obama may have eased people's concerns about speaking out and standing up for a union.''

The United Food and Commercial Workers maintained that it lost the 1997 election because Smithfield broke the law by intimidating and firing union supporters. In 2006, after seven years of litigation, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that Smithfield had engaged in ''intense and widespread'' coercion.

The court ordered Smithfield to reinstate four union supporters it found were illegally fired, one of whom was beaten by the plant's police on the day of the 1997 election. The court also said Smithfield had engaged in other illegal activities: spying on workers' union activities, confiscating union materials, threatening to fire workers who voted for the union and threatening to freeze wages and shut the plant.

The unionization campaign this year was conducted under unusual conditions and rules, intended to reduce the vitriol.

In October, the company and the union reached a settlement under court supervision in which the union agreed to drop its nationwide campaign intended to denounce and embarrass Smithfield and the company agreed to drop a lawsuit asserting that the union's denunciations and calls for a boycott violated racketeering laws.

The union's pressure campaign had been intended to persuade the company to let the workers decide on unioniz-ing not through secret balloting but through having a majority of workers sign pro-union cards.

Under the settlement, the two sides could campaign in a limited fashion, and they could not denounce each other. The agreement also allowed union organizers on the plant's property; union organizers are generally barred from setting foot on company property, even a parking lot, unless management consents.

''We won because that gave us more of a level playing field,'' said Joseph Hansen, the union's president. ''That was probably the major thing.''

Dennis Pittman, a Smithfield spokesman, said: ''It was close, and the people had a chance to do what we wanted all along, to speak their voice in a secret ballot, and they spoke. As we said all along, we will respect their decision.''

Mr. Pittman said he expected that the two sides would begin negotiations early next year.

Many unions are pushing Congress to pass legislation that would enable unions to organize workers by having them sign pro-union cards. ''I would say in this case, it shows that the union can win without a card check,'' Mr. Pittman said.

But Mr. Hansen said the 15-year unionization fight showed how hard it was to win under the normal system.

To win the election, union organizers pushed for the cooperation of the plant's black and Hispanic workers. At lunchtime, outspoken workers sometimes wore T-shirts saying ''Smithfield Justice'' and gave speeches to hundreds of workers. Several workers said that in the days leading up to the vote, some 2,000 workers had ''Union Time'' written on their hard hats.

Professor Hurd said one factor that helped the union was the growing percentage of black workers at the plant. ''African-Americans are the strongest supporters of unions,'' he said.

Lydia Victoria, who helps cut off hog tails at the plant, acknowledged that many Hispanic workers were afraid of being seen as union supporters. Illegal immigrant workers are especially worried because they fear deportation.

''A lot of Hispanic people,'' Ms. Victoria said, ''were scared to support the union, sometimes because of the lan-guage, and sometimes because they feel they don't get the same treatment like the people who speak English.''

''But people came together,'' she said. ''People wanted fair treatment. We fought so long to get this, and it finally happened.''

URL: http://www.nytimes.com

GRAPHIC: PHOTO: Workers demonstrating against Smithfield Foods in August 2007 during a shareholders' meeting in Williamsburg, Va.(PHOTOGRAPH BY SANGJIB MIN/DAILY PRESS, VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LOAD-DATE: December 13, 2008

The Take Away, December 12, 2008, Friday

The Take Away

December 12, 2008, Friday

The Take Away

Woman's work

Labor department finds 1.1 million fewer men working, 12,000 women find new jobs.

By John Hockenberry, Adaora Udoji, Kent DePinto

Guest: Pamela Tolbert

With men getting laid off at a faster rate than women, we ask is there such a thing as a gender that's recession proof?

Why are men getting laid off at a faster rate? Is there such a thing as a gender that's recession proof? Pamela Tolbert is the Chair of the Department of Organizational Behavior in Cornell University’s School for Industrial Labor Relations. She joins John and Adaora.

The Journal News, December 12, 2008, Friday

Copyright 2008 The Journal News (Westerchester County, NY)
All Rights Reserved
The Journal News

December 12, 2008, Friday
GWPR Edition

HEADLINE: N.Y. lawmakers back auto bailout; state cites 230,000 jobs linked to industry

BYLINE: Brian Tumulty

WASHINGTON - Most members of New York's congressional delegation support the auto industry bailout that passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday amid conflicting predictions of what would happen if General Motors Corp. and Chrysler were allowed to file for federal bankruptcy reorganization.
The bill, which stalled yesterday in the Senate because Republicans want to amend or derail the $14 billion in loans, would help stanch the erosion of New York's manufacturing sector in economically distressed upstate communities.
"The bottom line is that I'm not willing to play Russian roulette and see what will happen in Detroit if we allow the automakers to file for bankruptcy," said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-Bronx, explaining his support. "I think this is uncharted waters, and we need to do everything we can to avoid bankruptcy."
Only two members of the state's delegation - retiring Republican Reps. Tom Reynolds of Clarence and Vito Fos-sella of Staten Island - voted against the bridge loans approved by the House 237-170.
Rep. John Hall, D-Dover Plains, described himself as a reluctant supporter who was persuaded because of taxpayer protections that include a prohibition against bonuses or golden parachutes for top executives and the creation of a "car czar" to oversee the reorganization plans of the automakers.
"I'm trusting that person will do a good job," Hall said.
Supporters of the Detroit automakers say a forced bankruptcy filing would be devastating because car buyers would be fearful that warranties would not be honored.
That's one reason Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison, supported the bailout.
"GM, Ford and Chrysler are responsible directly or indirectly for 5 million jobs nationwide," Lowey said. "Three million would be lost the first year."
But Americans are deeply divided on the issue. A poll released yesterday by Marist College found 48 percent of registered voters disapprove of the legislation compared with 43 percent who support it. Nine percent were uncertain. The telephone survey of 883 registered voters taken Tuesday and Wednesday had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The American Conservative Union urged the Senate to reject the bailout plan, noting that the Tribune Co. - owner of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Cubs baseball team - filed for bankruptcy Monday without a public outcry for a bailout.
"It's time to draw a line," said David Keene, chairman of the ACU, whose organization maintains that federal bankruptcy laws would help the companies with their restructuring.
The loans do not apply to Ford Motor Co., which is not in immediate need of financial help, or foreign-based man-ufacturers such as Toyota and Hyundai that have plants in the United States.
Most Senate Democrats, including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, support an auto industry rescue.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed support yesterday for an amendment proposed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that would require GM and Chrysler to file for federal bankruptcy reorganization if they do not meet certain conditions by a fixed date.
Among the requirements Corker wants: lowering their labor costs to a rate similar to those of Nissan, Toyota and Honda; reducing their debt through an equity swap with bondholders; and paying part of their contractual obligations to labor unions with stock instead of cash.
"The best route for the long-term viability of ailing car companies may be a rocky one," said McConnell, R-Ky. "Government help is not the only option. It's not even the best option. Long-term viability is still possible. But it's only possible if these companies are forced to make the tough choices necessary for their survival."

Though New York no longer has any automotive assembly plants - the General Motors plant in North Tarrytown, now Sleepy Hollow, closed in 1996 - the state is home to parts plants such as the GM engine factory in Tonawanda, a Ford stamping plant in Buffalo and BorgWarner facilities that build transmissions in Ithaca, said Arthur Wheaton of the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

"There are still a significant number of auto jobs in New York," Wheaton said.

GM employs 400 high-tech workers at a facility in the Monroe County community of Honeoye Falls who are working on applications for fuel cells in the next generation of autos.
In 2007 - before the current recession - the state had 75,600 auto industry jobs, with 22,200 in manufacturing and 53,400 at auto dealerships, the Labor Department reports.
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimated the industry has a much bigger impact - 230,000 jobs statewide - using other sources of data that include indirect jobs at places such as auto parts stores and car insurance agencies.
DiNapoli's estimate is based on 2006 data and calculations by the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan, an industry-supported think tank.
Kajal Lahiri, an economics professor at the State University of New York at Albany, estimates the auto industry directly and indirectly employs about 250,000 New Yorkers, or about 3.5 percent of the state's 7.2 million workers.
But a bankruptcy filing by one or more of Detroit's Big Three would have a bigger impact in New York than in most states for a different reason - a default on the $100 billion in loans the automakers owe on Wall Street, Lahiri said.
"To me, that's a big one," he said. "If they go into bankruptcy, they have no obligation to those loans."
Speak out
Should the federal government bail out the automakers? Visit the "Open forum" at LoHud. com/forums.

LOAD-DATE: December 19, 2008

US Fed News, December 12, 2008, Friday

Copyright 2008 HT Media Ltd.
All Rights Reserved
US Fed News

December 12, 2008, Friday

HEADLINE: Brackin Named Auxiliary Services Corporation Interim Executive Director



SUNY Cortland issued the following news release:

Michelle K. Brackin of Dryden, N.Y., will serve as interim executive director of the Auxiliary Services Corporation (ASC) at SUNY Cortland, the organization announced on Dec. 8.

Brackin, who currently serves the ASC as assistant to the executive director, begins her duties on Jan. 5. She will replace Dana Wavle [WAH-vul], who is leaving in January after 13 years of service to the College community. He will become vice chancellor of administration and finance at Indiana University Southeast. A search to fill the position on a permanent basis will begin early in the Spring 2009 semester.

Founded more than 50 years ago, ASC is a campus based, not-for-profit organization providing dining services, vending, campus stores, student ID cards and other essential services to the campus community. ASC strives to promote the quality of student life and support the educational goals and mission of the College.

The organization employs approximately 425 full and part-time workers, including many students, and is the larg-est employer of students on campus. A board of directors composed of students, faculty and administrators governs the corporation.

Brackin's responsibilities will include organizing, evaluating and directing the ASC business affairs, including ad-ministrative, fiscal, operational, long-range planning and personnel management.

"Through her background and experience, Ms. Brackin is well poised to assume the responsibilities of executive director of ASC," said Joanne Barry, SUNY Cortland's human resources director.

Before her appointment, Brackin had served as the ASC assistant executive director since 2006. She joined the or-ganization in 1997 as human resources manager, and in that capacity she formalized all aspects of human resources administration. She developed three written employee handbooks and an improved computer payroll system, oversaw the transition to a unionized workplace and negotiated the first and subsequent collective bargaining agreements.

From 1994-97, Brackin was a human resource specialist with the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services, where she was responsible for administration of the health and dental insurance plans, workers' compensation programs, unemployment issues and the human resources information system. She worked in the same capacity at Pall Trinity Micro Corporation in 1993, helping the company with salary administration, the performance evaluation system and a major reduction in force. From 1990-93, she was a personnel payroll coordinator with Deanco, Inc. Brackin began her career in 1984 as a social work assistant and emergency room aide with the Cayuga Medical Center, assisting medical staff in emergency medical procedures for six years.

Born in Fort Collins, Colo., Brackin grew up in Nichols, N.Y. She holds a B.S. in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).

A member of the Local Society for Human Resource Management Chapter of Tompkins County, she served as its 1997-98 president. Brackin chaired the Cortland County Job Employment Services Committee from 1998-2006. In 2005, she completed the Dale Carnegie Course and served as a graduate assistant.

Her husband, Frank, is a retired Ithaca City Police investigator who now works as a forensic digital evidence spe-cialist for the Onondaga County Crime Lab. Their son, Shane, is a college student in Orlando, Fla.

LOAD-DATE: December 21, 2008

Indianapolis Star, December 11, 2008, Thursday

Indianapolis Star

December 11, 2008, Thursday

Indianapolis Star

Hog plant votes on union
Experts say the results will show whether employees feel secure

By Emery P. Dalesio / Associated Press

A TAR HEEL, N.C. -- Employees at Smithfield Packing Co.'s massive North Carolina hog slaughterhouse on Wednesday began two days of voting that will decide whether unions will get a rare boost in the country's least-unionized state.

The decision on whether to call in the United Food and Commercial Workers is colored by the rising specter of layoffs amid national economic gloom.

But most important in the decision by about 4,600 workers expected to be announced late today will be how secure Smithfield workers feel about their jobs, said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University and a former union organizer.

"They look at the things that are happening right there in their town or in their workplace," said Bronfenbrenner, who studies factors contributing to union success or failure in organizing. "Has the union focused on the issues that resonate with them? Do they believe this union is theirs?"

The UFCW has maintained an office presence near the plant for well over a year as it tried to build trust with workers. It has brought in Spanish-speaking organizers to meet with the plant's growing Hispanic work force. That contrasts with the union's 1994 and 1997 unionizing campaigns, when mobilizers rushed in a few months ahead of the vote.

A federal court ruled in 2006 that Smithfield's bad conduct during those two elections unfairly skewed the votes the union lost.

Bronfenbrenner thinks the past month may have marked a turning point in America's mood. A recession was officially declared, and signs mounted that the coming months or years could be the hardest times since the Great Depression.

"This is a time workers are feeling, 'Maybe this is our time, and maybe employers aren't so invincible,' " she said.

Jeffrey Hirsch, a University of Tennessee labor law professor who formerly worked for the National Labor Relations Board, agrees that bad economic times are often good times for unions.

"It's an irony perhaps that unions can get a bump in PR and show their relevance when times are bad," he said.

Others think rising job fears will lead Smithfield workers to recognize they earn a paycheck because, decades ago, companies began leaving union-friendly states for places such as North Carolina. Only about 3 percent of North Carolina workers were in a union in 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the national average was 12.1 percent.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Washington Post, December 10, 2008, Wednesday

Copyright 2008 The Washington Post
All Rights Reserved

The Washington Post

December 10, 2008, Wednesday


HEADLINE: Union Official Allegedly Liaison Between Governor, Obama Team;
Blagojevich Apparently Hoped for Job Leading Labor Group

BYLINE: Alec MacGillis; Washington Post Staff Writer

Among the revelations contained in the complaint brought against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich yesterday was the description of an official with the Service Employees International Union acting as an apparent intermediary between the governor and Barack Obama's camp in discussions over Obama's Senate seat.

The alleged role of the SEIU official was surprising, given that the union had not figured publicly in the investiga-tion into Blagojevich (D). But on another level, the SEIU's apparent involvement is an indication of the extent to which it has, under the leadership of its ambitious and controversial president, Andrew L. Stern, become an omnipresent force in Democratic politics.

With organized labor holding such high expectations for the Obama administration -- notably, hopes for legislation fiercely opposed by business leaders that would make it easier to form unions -- officials of other unions were hoping yesterday that the SEIU's apparent involvement in the Illinois scandal would not undermine their cause in Washington.

The U.S. attorney's complaint states that Blagojevich mused aloud with his advisers about the possibility that he could seek a high-paying job with Change to Win, the coalition of seven unions -- dominated by SEIU -- that broke away from the AFL-CIO in 2005. Blagojevich and his chief of staff wondered aloud about a "three-way deal" in which he would appoint Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett, a Chicago businesswoman believed to be the woman identified in the complaint as "Candidate 1," to Obama's Senate seat; Blagojevich in return would become Change to Win's executive director; and Obama would reward Change to Win with pro-labor policies.

The complaint also states that on Nov. 12, Blagojevich spoke by phone with an "SEIU official" who was in Wash-ington and with whom Blagojevich had met a week before on the understanding that the official was an emissary to discuss Jarrett's interest in the Senate seat. In the conversation, the SEIU official is alleged to have said that Obama now wanted Blagojevich to consider candidates other than Jarrett.

Apparently undeterred, Blagojevich allegedly suggested that SEIU could assist in the formation of a nonprofit po-litical organization that could employ Blagojevich while also assisting Jarrett. The SEIU official agreed to "put that flag up and see where it goes."

SEIU leaders, who were gathered yesterday at a Denver hotel to discuss the "card-check" legislation that would make it easier to form unions, declined to comment yesterday, saying through a spokeswoman, "We have no reason to believe that SEIU or any SEIU official was involved in any wrongdoing."

A spokesman for Change to Win said: "No one connected with Change to Win ever considered, discussed or prom-ised any position at Change to Win to Governor Blagojevich, his staff or his advisers. In the affidavit released by the United States Attorney, a position at Change to Win is discussed only in conversations between the governor and his advisers."

The complaint's wording suggests that the SEIU official who allegedly talked with Blagojevich was Stern, because it quotes the governor's chief of staff as saying the official "could make" the governor the head of Change to Win, a level of authority that only Stern holds over the coalition. But the SEIU official with the closest ties to the Obama team is Tom Balanoff, head of
SEIU's Illinois chapter. A labor source who was not authorized to speak publicly said that although Balanoff had planned to be in Denver, he was not at the meeting yesterday.

SEIU officials did not return repeated calls yesterday.

Stern has emerged as a central player in the labor movement by pressing aggressively to expand union rolls, along the way irritating AFL-CIO leaders, whom he accused of being complacent, and leaders of some SEIU chapters who accuse him of cutting deals with business and government that enhance his profile while undercutting local chapters. Among his victories was Blagojevich's decision to let SEIU, and not the American Federation of State, County and Mu-nicipal Employees, organize Illinois' child-care workers.

Stern resisted attempts by some SEIU chapters to endorse Obama early in the primaries, because Stern also liked former North Carolina senator John Edwards and hoped to preserve the union's resources for the general election. But Stern went along with a full endorsement in February, and the union invested heavily in the general election -- though it probably played less of a role in key Rust Belt states than the AFL-CIO did. A former SEIU official, Patrick Gaspard, was named Obama's political director.

Richard Hurd, a professor of labor relations at Cornell University, said it was doubtful SEIU would have conspired with Blagojevich, because it knew how relatively weak his ties to Obama were and because it was doubtful that Change to Win would hire him.

"They don't just create high-paying jobs like that. It doesn't even make sense. It sounds like someone's pipe dream."

But, depending on what else emerges in Illinois, SEIU's role could affect labor's agenda, he said: "If there turns out to be a connection with SEIU, it's not going to be a great thing for labor."

LOAD-DATE: December 10, 2008

Buffalo News (New York), December 10, 2008, Wednesday

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Buffalo News (New York)

December 10, 2008, Wednesday


HEADLINE: 260 jobs lost in plant closing; ArcelorMittal was last direct connection to Bethlehem Steel's former operations


The region's last direct connection to Bethlehem Steel's former operations is disappearing, with the impending closing of ArcelorMittal's plant in Lackawanna.

The shutdown will eliminate about 260 jobs, the company said Tuesday. The operation will be phased out by the end of next April.

The galvanized steel plant was part of Bethlehem Steel until 2003, when Bethlehem dissolved and the site became part of International Steel Group.

In 2005, ISG sold the operation to Mittal, which merged with Arcelor the following year. The Route 5 site has op-erated as a roll steel finishing operation since the early 1980s.

Steelworkers said Tuesday they were aware the plant was under pressure but were surprised the company had de-cided to close it.

Anthony Fortunato, president of Local 2604, United Steelworkers of America, which represents nearly 220 workers at the plant, said union leaders were told during recent contract talks to form a "viability team" with managers to find ways to make the site more competitive.

"It came as a big shock to me," Fortunato said of the closing announcement. "I thought we would have another two or three years at it."

William Pienta, the USW's district director, said ArcelorMittal's decision is symptomatic of the country's economic woes.

"This is a direct result of the financial crisis we're in," he said.

The Lackawanna plant's business depends heavily on the automotive industry, which is mired in a severe slump.

Pienta said USW members everywhere are feeling the impact of the auto slowdown. "They don't need our steel, they don't need our tires, they don't need our glass," he said.

ArcelorMittal called closing the Lackawanna site "purely an economic business decision." It said the plant was at a disadvantage because of its distance from its steel supply and from many of its customers and because of the nature of its manufacturing processes.

"All these disadvantages lead to higher costs, longer customer lead times and higher inventory levels than other ArcelorMittal facilities in the USA," the company said.

But Fortunato faulted the company for not investing in the facility and said it didn't give the viability team time to develop cost-saving plans. "I think they pretty much had us labeled for the last two or three years to shut us down," he said.

The company said Tuesday that it would make "every effort" to relocate unionized and salaried workers to other jobs within ArcelorMittal. James Hickey, a longtime employee, said that is not much of an offer at the moment.

"The only bad thing is, all the other plants are laying off [workers]," he said.

The company also pledged to help workers unwilling or unable to transfer to other plants in trying to find other jobs in the area.

Fortunato said workers who choose to take a severance package from the company, in exchange for cutting all ties and giving up the chance to take another job within the company, would receive $3,000 for each year of service, with a minimum payment of $25,000.

The Lackawanna plant now run by ArcelorMittal can draw a line back to its days as a Bethlehem operation. An adjacent bar mill, now known as Republic Engineered Products, also was a Bethlehem operation in the past, but it was closed by Bethlehem in the early 1990s before new ownership revived it.

The loss of the ArcelorMittal jobs will give the region an outsized economic punch because those jobs tended to pay more than the typical job, said George Palumbo, a Canisius College economist.

While the overall economic clout of the once-powerful local steel industry has dwindled as its employment has plunged from its peak of more than 20,000 in the 1950s to just a few hundred today, the jobs still pay better than the service jobs the region now is adding.

The typical primary metal manufacturing job, which includes those at ArcelorMittal and other companies, paid an average of $61,907 last year, roughly 60 percent more than the $38,667 of the region's average job.

Over the last eight years, slightly more than one of every four durable-goods manufacturing jobs in the region have vanished, according to state Labor Department figures.

"When you look at the decline in manufacturing, it's been rather stark," said John Slenker, the Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo. "But the service area has been growing rapidly."

Lackawanna Mayor Norman L. Polanski Jr., a former Bethlehem employee, said the shutdown will be felt beyond his city. "Yes, it's Lackawanna, but these are people who live everywhere, not just Lackawanna."

Polanski lashed out at what he sees as a lack of economic-development support for the area from the state and federal level. "Everybody talks a great game, and there's nothing here," he said.

The Lackawanna plant and the Steelworkers in 2007 received the "Champions at Work" award from the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Buffalo. The award highlights labor-management cooperation.

Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at the Buffalo school, said the local work force's performance wasn't the reason for the closing.

"I'm sure there's no way it would have lasted this long if they didn't have good labor-management relations," he said.

The company said it will evaluate the "most appropriate use of the facility's assets," which may include the clearing of land for new development, the reuse of existing assets or a combination of both.

News Business Reporter David Robinson contributed to this report.
e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

GRAPHIC: Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News ArcelorMittal's galvanized steel operation in Lackawanna will be phased out by next April, the company announced Tuesday, and with it will go 260 jobs.

LOAD-DATE: December 10, 2008

Washington Post, December 9, 2008, Tuesday

Washington Post

December 9, 2008, Tuesday

Washington Post

Battle Deepens Over Union Organizing

Labor May Be Key Issue for New Congress

Business and labor groups are intensifying their battle over a measure that would make it easier to organize unions, offering a preview of what is certain to be one of the earliest and hardest-fought legislative battles in the new Congress.

The Employee Free Choice Act would require employers to recognize unions once a majority of their workers sign cards of support. It also would require employers and unions to submit to binding arbitration if they are unable to reach a contract agreement within 120 days.

The changes would be the most significant in federal labor law in six decades, both sides say. Labor leaders and other supporters -- including President-elect Barack Obama -- say the measure would help restore bargaining power to workers whose wages have fallen behind inflation in recent years.

The proposal was the subject of a flurry of television advertising in several battleground Senate races this fall, but it never emerged as a front-line issue. Now, however, it is shaping up to be one of the most divisive battles facing the new Congress, and ultimately the Obama administration. On the campaign trail, Obama expressed strong support for the measure, which he co-sponsored as a senator, and he calls it an essential element in his vision for restoring middle-class prosperity.

The proposed legislation is opposed by a growing number of business groups, which frame it as an early test of Obama's economic pragmatism and see it as an attempt by unions to gain power they have lost as their ranks have dwindled in recent decades.

"If it passes, I think it would be a wholesale change in the political power structure in this country," said Rick Berman, founder of the Center for Union Facts, which opposes the measure. "People would be pressed into joining unions without having an opportunity to say no. Unions would collect billions of dollars in dues that they would use to hijack the political process for as far as the eye can see."

Opponents have attacked the proposal's intent to eliminate secret ballots in union elections, an idea they say is undemocratic. They also point to the weak economy, which this year has shed more than 1.9 million jobs, and say the plan is especially threatening to small businesses.

"We are trying to shine a little broader spotlight on what we think are the dangerous aspects of this legislation, particularly in this economy," said Katie Packer, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute, one of a growing number of business coalitions working to defeat the measure.

In recent television ads, opponents have linked heavy unionization to job cuts and other problems afflicting the airline, steel and automobile industries.

"I really worry that this issue is a public policy disaster and political nightmare in waiting," said political strategist Mark McKinnon.

McKinnon, who worked for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the Republican primary season but refused to work against Obama in the general election, argued that the opposition to the issue could jeopardize the rest of Obama's legislative agenda. "I think it has the potential to be like gays in the military was for Clinton if they try to roll this out quickly," he said.

Democratic congressional leaders have said they plan to move on the legislation quickly once Congress convenes in January. The measure is at the top of the list of concerns for organized labor, whose leaders say that current organizing rules have depleted the power of workers to bargain for good wages. In the past quarter-century, the share of workers in unions has declined from 20 percent to 12 percent, and many are public employees. Just 7.5 percent of private-sector employees are unionized, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Under current organizing rules, employers can demand that workers hold secret-ballot elections on whether to organize. Labor organizers say the rules allow companies to pressure workers through campaigns that often include closed-door meetings.

They also argue that the arbitration rule is necessary to prod employers to bargain in good faith. Currently, just over one-third of new unions fail to reach agreements on contracts with their employers, according to Kate Bronfenbrenner, a Cornell University researcher.

At the same time, labor organizers point out that unionized workers earn 30 percent more than nonunion members in similar jobs and are much more likely to have health insurance and pension benefits.

"We see the Employee Free Choice Act as part of an economic recovery package," said Greg Denier, spokesman for the labor coalition Change to Win. "Workers' wages are what drive consumption. If their wages are stagnant, you are undermining the foundation of economic growth."

The card-check proposal passed the House in early 2007 but was defeated in the Senate by a GOP filibuster. The bill faced a certain veto from President Bush. Now, however, the battle is focused on the Senate, where the Democrats will have a comfortable, but not filibuster-proof, majority. Most analysts think that if the bill makes it to Obama's desk, he would sign it into law.

Correction to This Article
This article about planned legislation to make it easier to organize unions should have identified political consultant Mark McKinnon as a spokesman for the Workforce Fairness Institute, which opposes the measure.

Business Week, December 9, 2008, Tuesday

Business Week

December 9, 2008, Tuesday

Business Week

Union vote begins Wednesday at huge NC pork plant

A 16-year confrontation over union representation at the world's largest pork slaughterhouse in the country's least-unionized state comes down to a two-day vote this week.

About 4,600 workers at the Smithfield Packing Co. slaughterhouse and packing plant in Tar Heel, about 80 miles south of Raleigh, will vote Wednesday and Thursday on whether the United Food and Commercial Workers should negotiate for them with the plant's owners, Smithfield, Va.-based Smithfield Foods Inc.

The plant, which employs about 5,000 people, is the size of a major shopping mall at nearly 1 million square feet and draws its labor force from across rural southeast North Carolina.

The operation turns up to 32,000 live hogs a day into plate-ready sliced pork and larger loin segments. Smithfield plans to expand its capacity from about 8.5 million to 9.5 million hogs per year.

Workers complain that the pace it takes to turn out one porker every two seconds leads to repetitive-motion and other injuries. They list tough working conditions, brusque treatment by managers and a desire for higher pay as the top gripes fueling support for the UFCW.

Dewel Delvalle, 38, who has worked for Smithfield for about 10 months, said his top complaint was what he sees as the disrespect of supervisors. The former South Bronx, N.Y., Teamster relocated to North Carolina about five years ago and said he enjoys his new job, where he earns $12.40 an hour, including a 50-cent raise this fall.

"It's not really about the money. It's about the respect we deserve," said Delvalle, who loads trucks. "A lot of supervisors talk to us any kind of way."

Johnnie Chambers, 45, who drives an hour and a half each way from his home in Marion, S.C., runs machines in the gas chamber where hogs are killed. He has supported a union for about three years, nearly the entire time he's worked at the plant, where he earns $12.15 an hour.

The starting pay there is about $10 an hour and the average about $11.50. Chambers said union organizers told him that starting pay at the company's three unionized plants near its Virginia headquarters is about $13 an hour.

The company says starting pay at the Virginia plants is $9 to $10.

Other workers are undecided about the union's value. Justin Whitted, Taylor Haats and Brendan Moore debated how they would vote as they munched on sandwiches and chips in the parking lot of a gas station Monday. Moore, 20, of Lumberton, said he didn't have enough information to make a decision, but if the union won and delivered improvements in a contract, he might join.

"If they get in, I want to see. If I like the way they work, then I will pay them their dues every week," he said.

Crew leader Barbara Lee said the national economic meltdown makes this no time to introduce a union and create uncertainty about future employment.

"I agree with the company. When you bargain at the table, you really don't know what's going to happen," said Lee, 51, of Fayetteville. "I have a job now. I do know I can lay down and go to bed without worrying if we're going to work today or go on strike. To me, I'm not interested in a union."

Employees voted against joining the union in 1994 and 1997, but a federal appeals court ruled in 2006 that Smithfield unfairly skewed the results. The company has since paid $1.1 million in back wages, plus interest, to 10 workers it fired during past union-organizing elections.

The union and the company declined requests for interviews, citing terms of a confidential legal settlement that set up this week's balloting. The deal shelved Smithfield's federal lawsuit accusing the UFCW of racketeering.

Neither side would describe the conditions for the campaign and vote.

Only about 3 percent of North Carolina workers belonged to a union in 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the national average was 12.1 percent.

Workers said managers met with employees inside the Smithfield plant Monday and showed a video in which company officials said a union was unnecessary. Employees said company officials declined to take questions afterward. About a dozen union representatives were allowed into the plant's cafeterias on Monday and Tuesday, these workers said.

Because of high worker turnover and the company's tactics in previous elections, the union had long demanded the company recognize it once the UFCW collected signed statements from a majority of workers, the process known as card-check. The company demanded a secret-ballot election. Each side said the other process could be manipulated by its rival.

"They've agreed to some kind of rules of conduct. What we can't know from the outside is what those rules are," said Cornell industrial and labor relations professor Richard Hurd, who has followed the Smithfield labor dispute.

The balloting is being overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Workers will be released at specified times to vote, or they can cast ballots during off hours when the poll is open, NLRB assistant regional director Howard Neidig said.

Counting should be finished late Thursday, Neidig said.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects day to Monday sted Tuesday in graf 11. Moving on general news and financial services.)